Ferguson finishes season strong at state swim meet

Laura Ferguson

STEPHENS CITY — Laura Ferguson turned heartbreak into victory last week in the Group 4A state swim meet.

The Sherando swimmer came up just .02 of a second short of making all-state in the preliminary round of the 50-yard freestyle. Like any one would be Ferguson was disappointed, but she was able to bounce back in the second of three heats during the finals and win the race to place ninth in the event.

“[Assistant] coach [Megan] Roberts and I really started to talk to her about winning that heat,” Sherando coach Joe Knight said. “You’re not going to accomplish your first goal, which was to win the whole ball of wax. But think about it, now you and another girl are tied, you’re the No. 1 seeds going into your heat. That means going out there and get after it. She took that to heart. We even told her to have fun, but visualize yourself — you touch the wall, looking up at the scoreboard and seeing Freguson with a No. 1 by it. It worked. She did it.”

“[Afterwards ] on the video board] coach Roberts showed me and I was like whoa, that’s pretty cool,” Ferguson said of seeing her name on the board.

Ferguson swam a season-best 25.82 in the preliminary round in the 50 freestyle, but finished tied for ninth, only the top eight advance to the final heat of the finals and are eligible to make all-state.

She also swam a strong 57.84 in the 100 freestyle, but again came up a little short placing 10th in the preliminaries. Ferguson finished 12th overall, after finishing fourth in the second heat of the finals in the 100 freestyle.

Ferguson’s solid day at the state swim meet helped her earn the Northern Virginia Daily’s Female Athlete of the Week for Feb. 15-21.

“The first two preliminaries it was really hard, because you want this and you’re expecting this thing — first place or second place or whatever place you want — and it doesn’t really go the way you want it,” Ferguson said. “But in the finals I was pretty happy with my results. I finally realized at the end just be happy with what you have. I was happy that I was able to go, not many people can go.”

Ferguson’s time in her heat in the 50 free final (26.09) was actually better than Heritage’s Madison McKay, who swam in the top eight.

Knight said that Ferguson struggled with not qualifying for the finals, but after a little time he noticed she was ready for her final two swims.

“When we came back to the pool, in the afternoon session she was a different kid,” Knight said. “You could just see it. The pressure was now off of her. She was starting to appreciate the fact that not every swimmer in the state makes it to the state championship. She was there. She was competing with the best, and she was starting to relax and her warmups were a lot better.”

Due to the weather, the week of preparation was a little out of sorts compared to normal. They had to cancel a couple practices, and the state meet, which was held at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center, was moved from Thursday to Friday.

Despite any distractions, Ferguson was able to perform at a high level in her final high school swim meet of her career.

“I think every swimmer feels like they could push themselves more,” Ferguson said. “Right now I’m like, ‘Oh, I wish I could do better.’

” … I’m quite happy I got state for both events and that was my goal.”

Ferguson qualified for state in three individual events, but had to choose between the 50 free, the 100 free and the 100 backstroke. Swimmers are only allowed to swim in two individual events at the state meet.

Ferguson decided to go with the 50 free and the 100 free, in part due to the 100 back affected a knee injury that she had to deal with all season.

Throughout the season, Ferguson dropped almost two seconds off her time in the 50 free and 100 free and almost four seconds off the 100 back.

Knight said he was very happy with Ferguson’s season and how she performed at the state meet against some very strong competition.

“To have her come back and beat all those girls [in her final heat], and then to see she actually swam faster than one girl in the final heat I think was reassuring to her,” Knight said. “It kind of made her feel really good about all the hard work and time that she had put in. All in all she handled herself really well.

“I truly believe she left the aquatic center a really happy athlete.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com